United States warship sails close to disputed island controlled by China

United States warship sails close to disputed island controlled by China

It is thought to be the first such challenge to China's unilateral claims while sending a signal about US' intentions to keep patrolling the seas since President Donald Trump became president.

Last month, top USA commander in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Harry Harris, said the United States would likely carry out freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea soon, without offering any details.

The last time the US military conducted such an operation near a disputed island in the South China Sea was in October under the Trump administration.

USS Dewey, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, traveled close to the artificial island China built on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said, "We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea".

The US insists it can conduct operations in any worldwide waters.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan and several ASEAN members including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.




Earlier in the year, the US military had requested permission to perform a freedom of navigation operation but it was turned down by the Pentagon, as part of an effort to ease US China relations, a US defense official told CNN.

The Pentagon said in a statement that it would continue challenging Beijing's claims through its regular freedom of navigation operations in the sea.

China claims the largest portion of territory, saying its rights go back centuries - in 1947 it issued a map detailing its claims.

At that time, China rapped the US move as a provocative action by Washington.

In his speech to the meeting, Xi commended the navy's work and said he wanted to build them into a strong and modern force.

Does China have upper hand? "In the former case, a military vessel would have to specifically operate in a manner not consistent with Article 19 of UNCLOS, which delineates a range of activities that are lawfully permitted for foreign vessels exercising innocent passage within the rightful territorial sea of a coastal state", Panda said.

The sailing also comes at a time when the Trump administration is relying on China to rein in an increasingly belligerent North Korea.

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